The one who judges is most often reflecting their bitterness rather than the merits of the subject of their judgement. There is a simple but important difference between judging and understanding. In seeking to understand we are compelled to make judgement calls about what we observe. Those judgement calls are in the form of observations or assumptions we make relative to what is visible to us, what we know about the subject, and what we think relates practically to it. In other words, our frame of reference is brought to bear on what we are faced with. We all do this. It’s a normal cycle we go through sub-consciously in order to make sense of the world around us.
The challenge lies in what we do with this information. The worst among us assume that this set of information is absolute and authoritative and therefore feel confident enough to use it as a basis of judgement against others. The lesser contemptible among us realise that it is only true within our current frame of reference and could change substantially if new information were to come to light. But there must be a simple reason that tells us why we respond so differently, and it cannot be external either. So what is it about how we perceive ourselves that gives us reason to be either arrogant and judgemental, or grounded and understanding?
I believe it lies in that septic space called self-worth. The lower our self-worth, the greater our inclination to judge, and vice versa. Those that despise themselves seek affirmation in the fact that others are lesser beings than they are. It’s an easy fix to stave off the contempt we feel for our shortcomings when we lack the strength of character required to face it, and deal with it. It’s significantly easier for me to slander the efforts of another than it is for me to raise my game and be as competent or benevolent as they are, all the while fearing insignificance with the current audience if I am seen to be the weaker one.
The challenge in expecting such bitter souls to reflect is that their bitterness is exactly the distraction that prevents them from reflection, and in turn, mindfulness. I still believe that those that may be bitter but are inherently good, and strive (albeit internally only) to improve their character and humanness, will ultimately attract the right set of circumstances that will force them to set aside the bitterness for long enough to see the truth of themselves that they tried to wish away.
The clutter in my space is making this thought process very difficult to articulate. When we see someone behaving despicably, our most common response is to despise them and to shun them. We distance ourselves from them from fear of contamination of their vile ways, or at the least, from fear of being associated with them. The former is a lack of our sense of self, and the latter being our need to be perceived well by others. In other words, our need for significance. If we didn’t fall victim to these two obsessions, I would guess that our response to vile behaviour would be very different.
Instead of shunning or despising, both of which are inherently judgemental, we would seek to look behind the eyes of the contemptible one, and instead of responding harshly, we would see the weakness that drives them to behave the way they do. But this demands of us that which we are most loathe to acknowledge. It demands an embrace of our own weaknesses, and more importantly, our gravest failures. In order to look behind the eyes of another, we need to recognise in them what we once subscribed to as well. Look behind the eyes of anger, and you’ll see a desperate need for significance. Just because they may be demanding that significance in the workplace doesn’t mean that it’s their colleagues that are the root cause of their desperation. Most often we tend to project our aggression on those that are least likely to resist or challenge it, while avoiding such aggression in the presence of those that we wish to appeal to instead. It’s the path of least resistance that enables such behaviour. We are more likely to show aggression in those spheres of our lives where we hold more authority because the coward in us directs us away from those settings where we know the repercussions will be costly. The cost being relative to what we desire.
It’s for the same reason that parents may vent their anger in the home but be docile and compliant at the office, or vice versa. As despicable as such behaviour may be, the moment we recognise that need for significance, or the need to appear competent, or simply to be liked, we will be able to see the weakness that provokes the brute, rather than believing that the brute is a lesser being than ourselves.
When we judge prematurely, we recede into a space of arrogance that eventually convinces us that we’ve arrived at the point of awareness in our lives where all we do is impeccably informed, and all we challenge is of a noble cause. That’s when we become the aggressors, and it is then that we should pray that there is one in the audience that will take the time to look behind our eyes so that they may be able to sensitise us to the weakness that has driven us to become the contemptible one.
If we look behind the eyes of the aggressor, we’ll see that there are no bad people in this world, only weak ones.
[Yet another incomplete thought process]